On Astropy

Just a quick post to draw your attention to an important paper on arXiv about the Astropy Project, which is community effort to develop a common core package for Astronomy in Python and foster an ecosystem of interoperable astronomy packages. The abstract of the paper is:

The Astropy Project supports and fosters the development of open-source and openly-developed Python packages that provide commonly needed functionality to the astronomical community. A key element of the Astropy Project is the core package astropy, which serves as the foundation for more specialized projects and packages. In this article, we summarize key features in the core package as of the recent major release, version 5.0, and provide major updates for the Project. We then discuss supporting a broader ecosystem of interoperable packages, including connections with several astronomical observatories and missions. We also revisit the future outlook of the Astropy Project and the current status of Learn Astropy. We conclude by raising and discussing the current and future challenges facing the Project.

One of the great advantages of using Python for scientific programming in general and for applications to astrophysics in particular is the existence of extensive software libraries of which Astropy is a prominent example. This is one reason why Python is now the state-of-the-art language in many fields, as exemplified by the following graphic (Figure 1 from the paper) showing the frequency of mentions of various languages in the astronomical literature.

This is on a logarithmic scale so Python is really way out in front.

Most people I know use Python for their scientific programming, and most undergraduate physics courses also use it (including mine at Maynooth). I’m a big fan of the astropy project but it faces many challenges, including funding and management issues. I can’t do much about those but I can encourage users of astropy at least to ensure they acknowledge and cite it properly in their papers, following the instructions here.

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